I remember when I was a kid we used to sing a song that went “Over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house we go”. Those are the only words of the song I remember but that is what this story is about anyway. The articles that I have been writing since I started my blog have been taking me through so many childhood memories. There is nothing I wanted to do more as a child, young adult and even now than to be a writer. I have written a lot of amateur poetry and songs over the years, and a lot of essays; but nothing that has yet been published. Ever since I got into fly fishing through Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), I have been doing a lot of reading on the sport and now I’ve been writing articles for this blog letting people know how PHWFF has been helping others and me to heal. During these winter months I haven’t been fishing. I have mostly been learning how to tie flies and have been reading several books a week about the sport.
Right now it seems like my writers block is gone for a while but who knows how long that will last? I even started writing a fiction novel recently and have much of the story in my head. With my PTSD and other disabilities I am 100% disabled and stuck at home much of the time. I want to start getting out more; especially now that spring is coming. I need the fresh air and peace of mind. What is great about this blogging is that I have been able to pull from each of my articles to create a new one. My two previous articles that made me think of writing this one are “Hook, Line and Finger…” and “Tom McCoy Writes for the Beginner and Doesn’t Pretend to be a Pro”.
In the first article it was just the thought of the cod fish trip and not the hook in the finger. My father and uncle Larry when I was a kid used to love my grandmother’s fish chowder that she made from cod (cod soup as they called it). I have to admit I learned to love it as well. When they would ask for it, she would send them to the store to get the fish. I still remember the kind they always got was in small wooden crate-like box. I don’t even know if they sell it like that anymore. That has to have been around 35 years ago.
Tom McCoy in his books mentions so many rivers that I grew up on and near; including the Ausable River in the Adirondack Mountains of New York where 99% of my the Bombard side of my family lives today. My grandmother Lola Bombard lived in what seemed like the top of the world to me on Whiteface Mountain.
The lakes, rivers and even the smallest creeks in the Adirondacks from Lake Champlain to the little brook less than a few tenths of a mile from my grandmothers driveway were always full of fish. I wasn’t into fishing much as a child because I got bored easily, but it was different there. We caught so many fish that I begged to go every time I was up there. (I’m not one of the 99% of the Bombards that did lived up there. I lived and still do live almost 4 hours south.)
My sister and I seemed to always sing that song “Over the River…” when going to my grandmother’s house. Actually we sang it on the way to both of our grandmothers house because we did cross rivers and go through the woods, but grandma Lola lived in the definition of woods.
I remember once when I was a teenager I worked with my dad who was a lumberjack. He sold his good logs to the mills and the rest as firewood. One day we delivered firewood to my high school history teacher Mr. Herbst. He was disabled but loved to fish. As far as I know he is still alive and well. At least I know he was in 2009 anyway when I asked about him at my 20 year class reunion.
Well Mr. Herbst had a picture blown up on his wall. It may even had been a painting and the scene looked very familiar to me. My father knew it right away because it was a landmark that he’d seen his whole life. He told Mr. Herbst that he knew exactly where it was and he couldn’t believe it. It was such a secluded area of the over 6 million square miles of the Adirondacks. It was a picture of a roadway that went over a dam near a dam-house. It happened to be Mr. Herbst’ favorite place to fish and you can probably guess; it was on the way to grandma’s house. I don’t remember the name of it, but I do remember crossing it every time we went to visit her; when driving from the town of Ausable.
It seems like everywhere I go now I pay attention to every bit of water I see. There is no reason to ever travel outside of New York State unless I really want to. I can fish a new spot everyday within the state for the rest of my live and never explore even a fraction of the fishing holes available. My favorite places although are up there in the Adirondacks; especially that little brook that was only a few tenths of a mile from my grandmother’s house. It was a pretty dry and tiny brook near the road at the steel deck bridge that went over it, but my uncle Larry showed us a place almost a 1/2 mile into the woods where he found a beaver damn and it was loaded with fish. We used to take a whole mess of them back to grandma’s little three room cottage where running water meant running up to the spring to fetch it (even in the early 1990’s); and she would cook them up in a way where the bones came out with one pull of the tail.
Living so far from my grandmother Lola, I never got to see her as much as I do my
maternal grandmother Catherine Squillante; but I loved her just the same. Since she has been gone I haven’t been up to the Adirondacks more than once or twice for family reunions. I hope I can start getting up there more, but I kind of doubt it due to my disabilities and inability to drive long distances.
I sure do miss my family up there. Especially my late father, grandma Lola, aunts, uncles and cousins. I pray that God is with them and that I see them soon. Who knows, maybe their will be beautiful mountains like the rolling Adirondacks in heaven and they will live there for eternity.
I don’t know what it is but I have always appreciated having a lot of alone time. In this day and age it is so hard to find a place to get away to hideout for awhile; especially with cell phones, emails, social media etc. It seems like you are always connected and that it is impossible to just disappear at times. I like to get away into the country as you can tell by my page. I use fly fishing as a way to get away and like many, find it very therapeutic.
Hunting used to be another hobby of mine also. As my PTSD worsened over the years however, death of all sorts has led to sadness to me though; so I’d rather shoot animals with cameras than firearms. Even when fishing, I only choose to take a few fish home to eat. The rest of the time I choose to catch and release; injuring the fish as little as possible.
Even without a fly rod though, streams, lakes and woods are my favorite place to hide out. When I was a child I grew up in a violent home and chose to run away. I grabbed a jar of peanut butter and some crackers and hid in a deer stand built by some hunter I didn’t know. That only lasted until the peanut butter was gone and it was getting dark though. I walked right back to a whoopin’ that day!
My favorite place to hide out I believe is up on a mountain overlooking a body of water or a beautiful valley. I like to just sit there by myself and not worry about a thing; often with my baby girl Sadie. In my mind there is no better way for me to relieve stress than to just have a little quiet time and hideout with nature.
I went down to Point Pleasant Saturday with my Son Christopher, step-father Lester and my good friend Lonnie to go cod and porgy fishing on the Big Jamaica party boat. It was a 16 hour trip about 70 miles out into the ocean, where we were deep line fishing the bottom near ship wrecks. We actually got to stay out a little longer because the captain wanted to let us try a spot that he thought might have good potential on the way back. That spot turned out to be full of dogfish though.
The first spot we fished turned out a lot of porgy and some of the largest sea bass I have ever seen. It was a shame that the bass were out of season for those who caught them. They had to throw them back in. Though I am trying to become a sport fisher and practicing catch and release, this was not the type of trip for that. There were so many people on the boat we might as well have just had a net down. My intention was to only keep what I thought I would eat fresh and then give my family and friends some. That turned out to be easy since I only caught three porgy and dropped one back in when I hooked my finger as seen in the article photo. They were delicious though. I didn’t know if I’d like them or not. Simple salt and pepper and fried in olive oil, they were great.
Deep lining is not a therapeutic form of angling as is fly fishing and just about anything else in smaller groups. The party boat was huge and crowded. People with PTSD (like me) would likely be uncomfortable for at least part of the trip. I cannot that I didn’t have a good time though. Being with my family and friend and having such beautiful weather in February was a true blessing. The mates on the boat were a good bunch of guys. They stayed busy as they were outnumbered like 20 to one by paying fisherman, yet they kept a smile on there faces and did their job well. I don’t usually write about party boats but I really wanted to give the Big Jamaica a mention because I would recommend them and will go out with them again.
My story here is more about that hook though. I have been fishing my whole life and I have always known that once a hook with a barb is too deep, it has to be pushed through and not pulled back. I have never personally seen this happen to anyone until this past six months when my friend Nicole (The Quilted Tyer ) got one stuck in her finger on our Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing trip to Roscoe in September and now me Saturday. Nicole has a great personality so it has been fun picking on her since that day; though it was no laughing matter seeing her in pain at the time. But when I did it to myself, I had to text her and let her know that I’d never tease her or anyone else again about it. A barb is a 4 letter word that can cause an angler to start shouting others quickly when stuck.
When it happened to me this weekend, the hook didn’t go in far. I knew I could get it myself so I told my son to hold the fish that I just removed while I did so. He was busy or didn’t understand so I just dropped the fish back in the water when suddenly the 20 oz. weight that I had resting on the rail fell also, yanking the hook all the way in. I still tried to remove it myself after untying the weight. I could feel the hook touching the tendon and I tried to steer around it to get it loose with no luck. I asked those around me for pliers but nobody had any to push it through so I went into the cabin where one of the mates cut it out for me after numbing it a little with ice. That is when the stories started coming out. The guy that pulled the hook out for me showed me a scar under his eye were a shark hook went through. One of the other mates got a gaff through his foot. Some of the other fisherman chimed in as well and that made me think of Nicole’s wound and the one Tom McCoy mentioned in his elbow in one of his books “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing and Catching” where he warns anglers to crush their barbs.
It is no wonder for people that have been hooked why a fish will eventually submit and lose a fight after a while much of the time. (the hook hurts!) By crushing the barbs or using barbless hooks to begin with it is much safer and more sporting for you and the fish. If you practice catch and release as many anglers do in effort to preserve the different species for the future then the less injury you cause a fish, the more likely it is to heal quickly and survive the trauma of being caught.
So if you are learning the sport of angling or are experienced and just want to be more sporting, get rid of that barb. You may lose a few more fish than you would have landed with a barbed hook, but it is much less barb-aric.
Sometimes the last thing a beginner needs is to read books written by longtime professionals or to take lessons from them. Not that it wouldn’t be a great feeling to say that you have fished with the best, but you may actually learn more from someone who is “not quite”. I’m not talking about another amateur or even a novice, but someone you would feel is a pro though they are not quite there. Have you ever asked a doctor to explain something to you? Whether it is an M.D. or a P.H.D. it seems as if they forgot how to speak in laymen terminology. My step father is a chemist (bachelors degree level) and I can’t understand him most of the time when he explains science to me. So if you are new to fly fishing (as I am) I suggest start from the bottom and enjoy. Those professionals have a lot of information to share with you and they would love to do so; but they may give you too much at once and scare you away. I have to admit that I have been guilty of trying to learn too fast and am forcing myself to slow down a little. This is something that should be therapeutic and relaxing; I don’t want it to cause me to burnout.
When I wrote my article “Appreciation” I told you of all the free things I got at my last Project Healing Waters meeting. One of those items was the book shown in the picture above, “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catching” by Tom McCoy. I said in that article that I would read the book and let you know how it goes. I had a lot going on this week but I am a man of my word. I must say that I enjoyed this book and another of Tom’s books this week. I don’t no if he deliberately tricked me or that I am just quick to misread or misunderstand but as I started reading this book he mentions his book called “How to Fly Fish for Trout, the First Book to Read”. Well you don’t start a series in the middle so I thought I better find that one. If you are as gullible as me, let me tell you now that it is not a series; you can read his books in any order that you’d like. Tom explains the title at the beginning of that book. He wrote it for a friend and anyone else that is a beginning fly fisher so that we can learn the basics from someone that does not speak above our head. Luckily for me I am a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and was able to download it for free. Although I did tell my wife that and she said ” If you don’t start reading more books at the cost of $10 per month then that book cost you $120). I guess she is right again.
Let me tell you what I didn’t like about Tom’s books first. I really think the only thing that I didn’t like was the limited illustration. I’m the type of person that learns from seeing and though he included pictures of some of his trips with his family and friends he did’t have many pictures of the tips that he was sharing.
The things that I did like about the books definitely outweighed the lack of illustration. First of all, Tom has a way of using his writing itself as the illustration. When he tells you where to cast your fly before and after a rock, under trees, off banks, in deeper pools that are oxygenated by the current flowing into them and so on, you can picture what he is talking about. When he tells you to cast your fly up stream and make a “d” or an “o” pattern at the end of your rod to make a correction you will understand him. I can’t explain the way he did. One way he illustrated the books in my mind is that I live where he does a lot of his fishing. When he talks of all of the creeks and rivers along State Route 17 in New York, I can see it all. Many people from around the world think of New York as all city; but the outdoors-men know different. Roscoe, NY is one of the most popular fishing towns in the United States (if not the world) and the Adirondack State Park covers more than 6 million square miles; that is larger than the state of Massachusetts! You can actually fit Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined into the Adirondack State Park. There Is a lot of land here and a fisherman would fail trying to fish all of it’s waters in his/her lifetime.
Lastly what I like about Tom’s book “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catching” is that on page 87 he says that the book is listed on Project Healing Water’s site and that he donates the royalty. As a disabled veteran (Healing on the Fly) I am a member of Project Healing Waters. Therefore Tom has donated to my fly fishing education and healing. I would love to see him on the Willowemoc Creek or the Beaverkill someday and shake his hand. Maybe I’ll find him in one of the secret spots that he mentions in his books. Who knows, he may even teach me in person. Hey, it could happen!
It seems like everywhere you look you can find an American veteran. Last I heard although, we only make up for about 10% of our country’s population. I have a few hats that I wear, shirts and even a Project Healing Waters jacket letting people know that I am one of that few that have served. Until recently I wore one saying “Disabled American Veteran” but it only led to questions about my disabilities that I’m not comfortable sharing with strangers. The goal for this page as you know is to keep people informed of how the sport of fly fishing has a healing affect for us as disabled veterans. This article is no different. It includes gifts that I received through Healing Waters, but it’s also more broadly about the appreciation civilians show veterans in this country and also the veterans appreciation of them and of their care of us.
I’ve had people shake my hand as if I were a movie star; thanking me for my service just because they saw a hat on my head saying that I am a veteran. Some honk their horns giving me a thumbs up after reading my veteran bumper stickers (which sometimes isn’t good with my PTSD,because it startles me). Some stores and restaurants show appreciation to veterans. Here in New York, we have free access to state parks if 40% disabled or more and our hunting/fishing licenses are free. We’re always treated like kings on Veterans Day, Memorial Day (though that is a day for those who lost their life), and Independence Day. It is people like this that make me feel great about having had serve this great country of ours.
I must say that the children are the ones I love most. Some say it is related to my PTSD (that children represent innocence). I can believe that. I just love seeing them waving flags as veterans parade by (as in the picture above) or the way they don’t hesitate to run up to a soldier to hug them. When I was in Saudi Arabia and Iraq I made sure to write letters back as often as possible to the children who wrote letters to us. When sitting in the waiting room at the VA their are usually little drawings and cards to read from kids as I wait. Even though I am not mentally whole, worse things could have happened to me while serving this country. The people who show appreciation (especially the children) help me to know that serving was the right choice for me.
Unfortunately although, you have people who take the direct opposite stance. People who ask “Why on earth would you choose to serve?” I like the bumper sticker that I have seen on occasion that reads ” If you don’t want to stand behind our troops, then feel free to stand in front of them”. That sticker sums my feelings up well. I just do not understand why some Americans can be so hateful toward America and its military. I can understand not liking war. I don’t like war and I don’t know anyone sane that does. But, unless there is ever a time when everyone world-wide agrees on everything, wars are going to break out; and that includes ones involving the United States. I can write a whole article about the pros and cons of war, but again that is not what this article or page is about.
I was touched by a donation given to my Project Healing Waters group this past week. It is a great example of the appreciation some people have toward veterans and how generous they can be. After the fly fishing show in Summerset, NJ a couple weeks ago, an anonymous person (likely a vendor) gave one our guys bags of items to share with the group. There were fishing flies and boxes for them, fishing line, fly tying vises and materials, some vests and waders, boots and more. Between the number of flies that I was given, the tying materials, etc., I’d say that I personally received over $100 worth of supplies. That was without taking any of the expensive items like tying vises, boots or waders. I did take a book called “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing and Catching” by Tom McCoy which gives me another article to write soon. Even after we each took items we needed at home there was a ton of stuff to keep at group for our tying there; and enough to share with other groups in the area.
It truly touches me when people show that they care. Whether it be my family, my doctors, people in my veterans groups, or strangers on the street they all are helping me to survive my daily nightmares. Peace seems to be the key. Some doctors have recommended meditation, mindfulness, yoga, prayer, equine therapy and many ways to escape the stress and depression of PTSD. I appreciate Dr. Barbara Smith so much for introducing me to fly fishing and a great group of guys (and Nicole) at Healing Waters in New City, NY.
Appreciation is something I believe is an ongoing circle for veterans and civilians. As a young civilian I appreciated this great country so much that I enlisted in the Army. I became a war veteran and other civilians now show their appreciation to me in so many ways. As an older veteran I am sure to appreciate younger veterans (including my son that served 6 years in the Marines, fought in Afghanistan and is now 50% disabled himself). I appreciate when civilians give to me and other vets an when we thank them they just say “You earned it.” There may be a lot of hatred in this country, but there is a lot of appreciation also. I’m glad that my eyes are open to that fact and I hope yours are too.
When I told you that my group leader Harry from Project Healing Waters said that my artistic fly was actually an “old English style salmon fly”, he later sent me a trailer link to a documentary movie called “Kiss the Water” by Eric Steel (2014)
After watching the trailer (which was a little on the boring side to me), my interest was still sparked so I found the movie on Amazon for $9.95 and watched it last night for the first and probably the last time. To see some of the flies that she tied (which I thought I’d see more of), was very inspiring, but the story went on and on with meaningless animation and music. They could write multiple books about this amazing woman, yet this movie spent a good 40 of its 80 minutes adding unrelated stuff. I posted a copy of the cover below although if you want get your own opinion.
By no means am I saying that I have lost interest in learning more about Megan. Heck, I would have loved to have learned from her. The picture of her above is off of the cover of a book called Megan Boyd: The story of a salmon fly dressing Dec 1, 2016 by Derek Mills and JImmy Young. I found it on Amazon for $30 but I would rather find it at a library just in case (or at least used).
Either way, if you are interested in this type of artistic salmon fly Megan was the best. She even made flies for Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth awarded her the British Empire Medal.
It seems tome like fisherman need to step it up a notch. The woman have us beat! According to the movie, the best fly tyer ever was a woman, largest salmon ever caught was by a woman and the most salmon caught in a single day were caught by a woman. Also when I went tuna fishing several years ago, the captain’s daughter held the record of solo catching the largest tuna while captaining her own boat at the same time. What about Hall of Fame’s Joan Wolfe, still teaching casting techniques today. I mean I am going to enjoy the sport either way, but I will stick with the name angler rather then fisherman. Fisherman just sound a little like “not quite a fisherwoman”
Have a good day. Talk to you soon.